Practical Advice on How to Start, Implement a Digital Upgrade

eWEEK DATA POINTS RESOURCE PAGE: Industry expert CEO Tony Safoian of SADA Systems offers practical information about what it takes to achieve successful digital transformation.

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A recent McKinsey survey found that companies are aggressively pursuing digital transformation, but success still remains elusive. Larger companies are having an especially tough time: At organizations with fewer than 100 employees, respondents are 2.7 times more likely to report a successful digital transformation than are those from organizations with more than 50,000 employees.

So why bother trying? The answer: Because when it works, the results can dramatically improve a company’s long-term fortunes.

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In this eWEEK Data Points article, industry expert CEO Tony Safoian of SADA Systems offers practical information about what it takes to achieve successful digital transformation. SADA System is a business consulting and tech services firm that has helped numerous companies navigate this change.

Data Point No. 1: Decide Which Efforts to Prioritize

Too many companies make the mistake of trying to boil the ocean right out of the gate. Legitimate digital transformation takes time and has much to do with culture as it does technology. Focus first on quick wins. We advise our customers to begin with projects that involve a low degree of difficulty and have a big impact, like moving to cloud-based email, or a Google Meet campaign that allows you to move away from Webex licenses.

Likewise, companies that have already started on the digital transformation path should consider increasing investments in tools that seem to be working. For example, companies using Google Drive might invest in training and eventually workflow analysis to get users more comfortable with the system. Then, invest time/energy on the harder workflows, where the degree of difficulty is higher but so is the opportunity for impact. 

Data Point No. 2: Get Your 'Digital Core' In Shape

In a perfect world, every company would have an internal team focused on digital transformation. But that’s unrealistic. Instead, companies should lean on partners for information regarding tools, methods and best practices. Having a strong digital core also means being flexible. In the cloud, things are constantly changing, so companies should have a process that allows them to change with the technology, both through policy and change management campaigns. 

Data Point No. 3: Create a Plan for Tracking Success

Everyone knows there are lies, damned lies and statistics. But that doesn’t mean companies shouldn’t attempt to track their progress or measure their outcomes. Success should be tracked by metrics that are important to each customer uniquely, whether that’s user satisfaction, adoption, increased productivity, cost savings or something else. The key is identifying those metrics early on and tracking them over time. It’s also important to have both qualitative and quantitative metrics to support your initiative. Most cloud providers offer tools to help measure adoption. Additionally things such as surveys, a decrease in other tool usage and cost savings are metrics that can be used across the board.

Data Point No. 4: Be Patient When it Comes to Changing Behavior

One misconception about digital transformation is that it happens quickly. That’s the exception, not the rule. Ultimately, digital transformation is the use of tools to change the way your workforce works. But changing human behavior takes time, so give your organization plenty of runway, apply steady effort, and don’t be discouraged if you don’t see major results right away. Have a plan with a clear outcome in mind, stick to the plan and measure progress regularly. Finally, don’t underestimate the dedication it will take from your project team. Ensure they have the support of an executive sponsor and the resources to continue what is, by most accounts a digital transformation marathon.

Data Point No. 5: Don’t Make a Move Without Executive Sponsorship

This point cannot be overstated. Executive sponsorship is critical to the success of your enterprise digital transformation initiative. This individual can help sell your plan to the CEO and board of directors, offer support and direction as you proceed and provide cover when things get shaky (which always happens, to some degree). This person can also help align goals to various business units and remove obstacles and resistance to the initiative by aligning your plan with larger corporate objectives.

Data Point No. 6: Showcase Success Whenever Possible

Digital transformation, when done properly, is a long haul. It’s important to stop and smell the proverbial flowers every once in a while. Acknowledge milestones and reward progress; even small things, like gift cards and candy, can inspire people to persevere when they can’t quite figure out how to implement a new system or process. It's both informative and inspirational for people to see how their colleagues are using the same set of tools they have. It creates dialogue and gives individuals and leadership an idea of what success can look like.

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Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 15 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...